White House Plumbers, the Dita Beard memo & Watergate

Another significant true tale from those years is shown in episode 2 of the 2023 HBO miniseries White House Plumbers: the infamous ITT affair related to the Dita Beard letter, which revealed a system of bribes ITT was paying to settle the Antitrust accusations from the US government. Let’s find out what actually transpired. The series demonstrates how the “Dita Beard memo” became an important step leading to the Watergate affair.

How HBO’s White House Plumbers connects the Dita Beard Memo to Watergate

American lobbyist Dita Beard rose to prominence in the 1970s as a result of her role in the ITT Affair, a political scandal. At the time, the US government had filed antitrust charges against the global conglomerate ITT Corporation. By contributing illegally to both political parties, the firm reportedly tried to sway the verdict of the lawsuit.

It was uncovered that Dita Beard had produced a document outlining ITT’s efforts to influence political figures. The company’s attempts to sway the antitrust action brought against them by making unauthorized campaign contributions to both political parties were described in the Dita Beard memo. The document was leaked to the media and made public by Jack Anderson, a columnist for the Washington Post.

The Dita Beard memo is available here, in the New York Times archives. ITT promised to provide $400,000 to the Republican Party in exchange for a favorable conclusion in the antitrust case, according to the document written by Beard.

The 1972 press leak of the document led to a significant scandal. As a result, the Senate launched an investigation and held a number of hearings where Beard was asked to provide testimony regarding her involvement in the scandal. The Nixon government had every interest in downplaying the incident, preventing further investigations that could damage Nixon’s reputation, as seen in the HBO series White House Plumbers, which depicts how the White House put Dita Beard under pressure concerning the hearing. Dita Bears stated under oath on March 26, 1972, that she never wrote such memo as a result of this pressure.

As the New York Times noted at the time, Dita Beard revised her story a few days later, on April 6, and acknowledged that she was the memo’s author. The investigations continued in the months that followed, but as White House Plumbers demonstrates, the effort of Nixon’s “fixers” on a clandestine team to solve the ITT scandal led the White House to approve their plan to bug the DNC headquarters in the Washington, D.C., Watergate Office Building. As this old article in the Washington Post demonstrates, the Dita Beard memo and the entire ITT controversy helped shine light on the corrupt activities of some political lobbyists and contributed to calls for greater transparency. This is how the investigation into the Dita Beard document later intersected the Watergate scandal.


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